FTSE enjoys best January since 1989

Man looking at computer screenLondon's FTSE 100 Index has enjoyed its best January for 24 years after a new year rally boosted the value of UK blue chips by about £96 billion.

The top flight has risen by more than 6% - or 379 points - since the start of the year, making it the best January performance since 1989 and the third best in the history of the FTSE 100. The rise came despite a poor session for the FTSE 100 on Thursday, down 46.2 points at 6276.9, as the new year rally looked to be fizzling out.

A bout of profit-taking left the FTSE 100 lower after a flood of corporate announcements, while sentiment was also hit after figures on Wednesday showed the worst economic performance for three years in the US.

The failure of the US Federal Reserve to signal further action at its two-day meeting on Wednesday added to the caution, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average on Wall Street also slipping into the red in early trade.

Recent hopes for the global economic recovery have driven world markets to multi-year highs, with London's top flight at its best level since early 2008.

But as stocks have enjoyed a spectacular month, the pound has seen a grim start to the year, falling to its lowest level against the euro for more than 12 months in recent days. It edged slightly higher on Thursday, to 1.17 euros, but has dropped sharply from more than 1.23 at the start of the month amid fears over the UK's economy.

Corporate results had an impact on the top-tier's performance, with AstraZeneca the biggest faller - down 3% - after the drugs giant warned that the impact of lost patents will continue to depress revenues this year. Chief executive Pascal Soriot also reported a 38% drop in pre-tax profits to 7.7 billion US dollars (£4.9 billion) for 2012.

Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell was another faller, off 3%, after the fourth-quarter performance of its upstream operations disappointed analysts.

Overall profits for 2012 were 6% lower at 27 billion US dollars (£17.1 billion), although it said about 30 new projects under construction should drive production growth going forward.

Satellite broadcaster BSkyB was among the biggest top flight risers, up 1%, after it reported an 8% rise in operating profits to £647 million in the six months to December 31 as the take-up of new services such as Sky Go continues to impress.